The Computer Society of Kenya

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DNLaptop1806cBUSINESS DAILY BY ELIZABETH KIVUVA

TUESDAY APRIL 21, 2020

Private schools are turning to online classes to generate income from fees as they fight for survival in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the closure of learning institutions.

As the economic impact from the pandemic begins to bite, there are fears that some private schools could be driven out of business due to loss of their main source of income: Fees.

Elite schools such as Braeburn Schools, the Aga Khan Academy, Banda School, Cavina School, Premier Academy, Kenton School, Rusinga School and Sabis have reached an agreement with parents to charge fees for teaching students online.

This will boost their cash flow and facilitate paying salaries for teachers and non-teaching staff, maintenance of facilities and repayment of loans for investors who have tapped bank credit to build or expand their schools.

Mid-tier institutions like Riara School and Makini School are also preparing to open virtual classes in coming weeks as others test their platforms in readiness for resuming learning, albeit online.

Last month, President Uhuru Kenyatta directed all schools, colleges and universities to remain closed as part of far-reaching measures to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus.

Private schools have warned of a possible financial crisis and their teachers and workers being laid off in the event that the global pandemic continued beyond April. This would also delay the start to the second term. However, Education Secretary George Magoha has so far ruled out postponement of national examinations.

Now, some of the schools are offering fee discounts of between 10 and 50 percent for the second term to take into account the fact the schools have closed and are only able to offer online classes. Others are offering rebates for meals, transport and extra-curricular activities to cushion parents and guardians from paying higher fees.

In some of the schools, learners are taught real time via apps like Zoom and Skype, allowing them to interact and seek clarification from teachers, a move that look set to exacerbate the learning gap between the haves and have-nots.

“Most schools are opening the term tomorrow, and the classes will be done virtually. We have been forced to take a giant leap into the future,” said Jane Mwangi, secretariat coordinator of the Kenya Association of International Schools — the lobby group for elite private schools.

“Members of both the Kenya Association of International Schools (KAIS) and the Kenya Private Schools Association (KPSA) are reducing fees by 15 to 30 percent because in this case, there is no physical interaction with the students but there are other processes involved including need for desktop, laptops and internet by teachers,” she said.

Parents are seeking bigger discounts, arguing that schools’ running costs have dropped and that some are being asked to assist with online classes.

“The fee discount should be more than 50 percent as the students will not use the school compound, stationary and other material provided by the school,” said a notice from Rusinga School parents to the management seen by the Business Daily.

Other parents fear a drop in their incomes following reduced economic activities brought by movement restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the infectious virus.

“The 25 percent is on the lower side as we all know with the advent of Covid-19, our jobs at the moment are unstable whether we are business owners or employed,” said a memo from Aga Khan Schools parents.

Braeburn, which started remote classes on March 16, says it has offered discounts of between 10 and 40 percent depending on class levels.

“With the school sites closed, there are some operational savings that we can make, and, in the circumstances, we would like to pass these on,” said Braeburn managing director Andy Hill. “We also acknowledge that children require additional support from their parents when learning from home, more so the younger the children.”

However, Ms Mwangi said that even after the transfer classes to virtual learning, financial burdens on schools have not eased.

“The cash flow has been interrupted but overheads have not. We still need to pay teachers on payroll, drivers, cooks, administrators, maintaining grounds and pay electricity, rent while also expanding our internet,” she said.

Some mebers of the Private Schools Association said some institutions had already started engaging the government for financial aid to enable them run their institutions. Unlike government schools, private schools do not receive capitation or State funding, meaning they depend entirely on fees to run their operations. There are more than 1,932 private secondary and 8,000 private primary schools in the country.

According to this year’s school calendar, primary and secondary schools were scheduled to close by April 10. Second term was scheduled to begin on May 4 and end on August 7 while third term was scheduled to open on August 31 and end on October 30.

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